Lithuania SIG #Lithuania Linkuva Draftee List 1904-1916 #lithuania

William Yoffee

A list of military draftees for years 1904 to 1916 >from the shtetl Linkuva
has been posted to the Panevezys District Research Group's Shutterfly
website. The list of 1349 lines of data consists of a draftee's
registration number, surname, given name, father's name, relationship
to the head of household, sex (all male), and age. On selected lines there
are additional comments which most often list the actual date of birth,
and occasionally some other pertinent fact about the named individual.

The list is organized by family groups including the heads of households
and the sons. This may offer limited use as a representative census of
males eligible for military service in the Russian military during
this period.

While the figures for Linkuva, a relatively small town, may not be
representative of the Pale of Settlement as a whole, it is interesting to
note that in 1904, the year before the Russo-Japanese War and the Russian
Revolution of 1905, the number of draftees was only 14. In 1907, the number
was 146. The yearly average for ten years (1907-1916) was 133, ranging from
a low in 1908 of 103 to highs of 174 in 1910, 160 in 1913 and 156 in 1914,
presumably in expectation of mobilization for the coming war.

Prior to 1827, Jews were ineligible to serve in the Czarist military and
instead were taxed as an alternative to military service. This was a matter
of law as a result of which, nevertheless, led to characterizing Jews as
cowards unwilling to fight for their country. The change in 1827, authorized
by Czar Nicholas I, was intended to educate and assimilate Jews into Russian
culture, teach them useful skills and crafts and encourage them to become
loyal and useful citizens. At the time, Russia was following the trend in
other countries that had previously restricted Jews >from military service.
In Russia, military service was considered the most effective educational
opportunity for the masses.

The required period of service for draftees, initially, was 25 years, and
if they were married their male offspring became the "patrimony" of the
military and were required to attend special schools for the children of
soldiers (the so called "cantonists"). Although the normal age of
conscription was between 18 and 25, for Jews the age limits were 12 to 25.
The Jews (through the Kahals) were usually required to supply four
conscripts for each thousand subjects. The efforts of the Kahals were to
recruit "non-useful" Jews, which tended to exempt middle class families and
guild members and concentrate on single Jews: heretics, beggers, outcasts
and orphans. To complete unfilled quotas, "khapers" (usually non-Jewish
catchers) were employed to dragoon otherwise ineligible candidates, some
even as young as age 8. During the Crimean War (1854-1855) the quotas of
Jewish recruits was substantially increased to a much greater extent than
for non-Jews. Draft of children was outlawed in 1856, but did not
end until 1859.

In 1874, under Czar Alexander II, there was a major reform of the
conscription laws which resulted in shortening the term of service to 6
years, broadening the pool of eligible recruits and instituting a new system
of exemptions.Between 1874 and 1892 more than 174,500 Jews were drafted.
Between 1874 and 1914, the proportion of Jews in the military
(5% in 1907) was greater than the proportion of Jews to non-Jews in the
general population (4%).

After the Russo-Japanese War, beginning in 1906 there was considerable
anti-Jewish sentiment in the Duma debate about the loyalty and discipline
of Jewish soldiers. The Linkuva data show that beginning around 1907, the
conscription of Jews increased substantially. A statute adopted in 1912,
approved and legalized all of the previously adopted discriminatory
anti-Jewish practices and regulations. However the service for Russia of
around 300,000 Jewish soldiers in World War I did not seem to be
substantially affected. After the February Revolution of 1917, the
provisional government cancelled all anti-Jewish regulations and Jews then
even became eligible to become officers.

Two versions of the List have been posted: one in alphabetical order and one
by year.

The Panevezys District Research Group is open to anyone who makes a
contribution of at least $100 to help finance the work of the Group.
Qualifying contributors are entitled to receive all new record translations
for at least 18 months before they become publicly available on the All
Lithuania Database (ALD).

Contributions in smaller amounts, of course, are always welcome. All
contributions are used to pay for translations of original records and can
be made on-line at For any further information
please contact me.

Shavuah tov and
Bill Yoffee
Panevezys District Research Coordinator

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